Instead of a basketball court or the stage where Fleetwood Mac performed a few nights earlier, the floor was covered with dirt, chutes, pyrotechnics, determined cowboys and even more determined bulls. A bovine aroma permeated the arena and hard rock and country music blared loud.
It was a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Seriously. We saw Bushwacker, the 2011 World Champion Bull, buck one of the top riders in the world off his back. He scored 48.25 points out of 50. Asteroid, another contender for champion bull, bucked off a top rider.
Bulls won most of the time, but cowboys scored a few 8 second rides. There were only nine qualified rides in each of the two long rounds ― a total of 18-for-70 ― and one in the final round.
Tennessee native Cody Nance earned his first Built Ford Tough Series win of 2013. Nance rode Rock & Roll for 86.5 points and was the lone rider to cover all three bulls at the KFC Yum! Center.
Excerpt From Kentucky Cowboy
This was the championship round. After seven rounds in a period of two weeks, he and a Brazilian cowboy were stalemated. Either one could win the finals with a high score. But to win it all, the world title and the million bucks, all Judd had to do was stick on the back of the last bull for eight seconds. His score didn’t matter.
He had drawn Bad to the Bone.
Sweat coated his upper lip. It would be the longest eight seconds in his life. He had put himself in a fix by getting bucked off twice in the first seven rounds. He had lost focus. Forgot to concentrate. Now everything was riding on his final effort. His effort, his injuries this past year, and the accumulation of so many points over the whole season would mean nothing if he didn’t ride this ornery bull one more time.
“You’re up, Romeo.”
Judd jerked a quick nod. He didn’t say a word, just jammed the mouthpiece into his mouth and climbed into the chute. The cowbell tied to the end of the bull rope clanged almost like a warning signal.
As he had done every regular-season event and championship for ten years, Judd pulled the slack out of the rope around the bull’s midsection. Next he wrapped the rope underneath his gloved right hand and across his palm. Closing his fingers, he made a fist. With his free hand he pounded his fist—once, twice.
Blinking, he shut out the past. The future. Only the present counted. Eight seconds. His heart slammed into his throat.
Judd nodded to the gateman. The gate swung open and Bad to the Bone blasted out of the chute in three powerful jumps. The bull turned back to the right, spinning, his power building, the motion throwing Judd off balance.
Judd pitched to the right, jerked out of position, slipping. No! I’m gonna ride this sucker. The muscles in his right arm burned from the strain. His jaws cramped.
Where’s that damn buzzer?
He tipped farther to the right, not really riding any longer, just hanging on. Inches from the dirt, Judd smelled defeat. He squeezed the bull rope, holding on with raw determination and fiery gut.
The buzzer sounded.
Judd released his grip and fell hard. He scrambled to his feet, the roar of approval in his ears. Thanks to the bullfighter, the bull veered away to the right. Judd sailed his cowboy hat into the air. It hadn’t been pretty, but he had stuck it. He’d won! His head buzzed as the sweet reality hit home.